I was home sick from work today, too sick to talk or really get out of bed and do anything– but fortunately not too sick to tap on a keyboard for a while. So I cracked open my long-neglected laptop and downloaded the latest version of Processing, which for those of you who don’t know it, is a really cool programming environment designed for artists. It’s a great big toybox full of fun gadgets, with plenty of examples to crib from, so you can just start with something interactive right away, and tinker with it until it does what you want–or does something completely unexpected.
It’s funny, because I was just talking with a friend the other day about watercolor, and how the happy accidents are what make that medium so much fun. We were comparing it to our day jobs in computer animation, where everything that happens is deliberate (not to mention expensive.) So it’s nice to see that happy accidents can happen in the computer once in a while too.
If you’ve spent any time wandering around my rambling home page, you might know that I have colored-letter synesthesia. For years I’ve been looking for ways to convey to other people what the experience is really like. This is not a simple task, because the colors are kind of dynamic: they change depending on a number of factors.
One of those factors is memory, and another one is attention. If I glance at a word once in passing and try to remember it later, chances are I’ll remember only some basic information about it: the length of the word, and the dominant color (which is usually, but not always, determined by the first letter.) Remembering the whole word will mean trying to remember the specific colors of all the letters, which then, sometimes, allows me to remember the letters themselves.
To help illustrate what this feels like, I built a little Flash applet. As you type words into it, they appear with each letter in its proper color. But as time passes and memory fades, the letters are replaced by blocks of color that approximate what little I might remember. To refresh your memory, you can pay attention to the words by moving your mouse towards them.
I actually wrote this almost two years ago, but somehow forgot to put it up online. (Another case of memory fading as time passes.) I think I had some notion about making it better, or adding punctuation or something. But a random email reminded me of it, and I realized nobody cares about punctuation these days anyway. So here it is. Enjoy!